Clennell Colossus 2017 – Oof That Hurt!

Rain rain go away. The clennell colossus of 2017 would turn out to be a damp affair both in the setting up and the action on the day. Some hardy riders turned up and made the magic happen at the beautiful Clennell Hall Country House.

Casting our memories back 12 months the conditions in 2016 were just horrendous. Never in June I have seen clouds all the day down in the valley with 10 metre visibility for just about the entire day. Fingers, legs various other body parts were all crossed hoping the same didn’t happen this year. Setting up the course in the preceeding 3 days showed exactly what the Cheviots are all about. Wednesday: clear and sunny. Thursday: torrential rain. Friday: couldn’t make it’s mind up if it wanted to rain or have sun. In all those days we bumped into precisely no-one, not a single other person out in the hills!

Friday became a mad rush of collecting t-shirts, numbers, beers and various other stuff then get back and finish setting up the marquee. By 10pm all was just about in place and many folk had arrived to take advantage of the free camping. The pub got a healthy number of people through the doors and the smell of bbq was wafting through the air. Mmmmm meat. Everyone fell asleep to the pitter patter of rain.

Saturday morning and the alarm resonates through my skull at 5am with yet another day with a ridiculously early start. What sounded like heavy rain was drumming down against the canvas of our tent. Oh joy. With a full day on a quad bike coming up I could expect to get severely damp. Planning for this several layers were piled on. Stepping outside the precipitation was not as bad as it sounded which was a bonus.

Final prep now went into play with water sorted, sound system turned on, numbers written out (100 were missing!) and so on. Some super keen cyclist turned up just aftr 6am and got signed up. Debby Mortimore, Joanne Richardson and Allison Kemp sorted people out. I wondered if they just went straight back to bed after that. Some serious z’s were being kicked out in the tents as the snoring could be heard in the marquee. At least I hope it was snoring and not someone trying to choke a pig.

Clearly mountain bikers know how to time their arrival. Between 6am and 7am there was next to no-one pickingup their nnumbers. When the clock ticked 7am the cars started flowing down the road and the joy of parking began. Clipping was under way at the farm so the improvised car park was the red road near the farm using pretty much every available bit of space going. It was good to see some familiar faces on the scene but not good when they were telling me tales of how bad the weather was just 20 miles away and the wind was blowing in this direction. Gulp.

Sign-in came to an end and the marshals headed off out into position. Some were just down the road and others were off to the far end of nowhere for the day. The quad bike got fired into life and put-putted to the car park. The safety briefing was very short and then the final ten minute wait just seemed to drag on for ages. Nervous anticipation was palpable in the air but whether that was from us or the riders I’m not sure. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and they’re off!

The bikes were all led off by the quad. There were a few reaons for this. If people didn’t get the last second change to the gpx file they may have wandered off to the side. Secondly, the route signing was being checked as we went. Lastly, there was a major medical incident last year early doors and we were determined to keep a close eye on the early stages.

The riders soon stretched out on the red forest track and became a long snake slithering its way up the valley. After this nice and gentle warm up everyone was met by Debby Mortimore holding open the first gate. She had the joy of seeing people look left to the hill they were about to climb and see the blood drain out of their faces. The rocky beginning caught a few out but soon enough people were in the rythm and grinding away up the hillside. Heart rates would have rocketed here and eventually when everyone reached the top they had to circulate around the edge of a grassy field starting with some nice singletrack overlooking Clennell Hall.

Clennell Colossus

Soon the route hooked up with the ancient drovers road of Clennell Street. It’s grassy surface made that bit more hard-going by the rain that had been falling in the previous days. In fact it was up here were the rain had wind assistance and hit the riders hard on the exposed fells. I am guessing some people thought they were in for very long days at this point. Soon enough the peleton reached the first split point. Paul Kemp and the paramedic waited for them in the Land Cruiser. The short route carried on up Clennell Street whilst the long route carried off into a grassy abyss over The Knocks and swooping down a fast and smooth descent down to a glorious singletrack traverse to Shillmoor.

I took up position high on the hills above and watched as the pace slowed whilst cracked grinded away up the Copper Snouth track, hauling themselves once again up to Clennell Street. Eventually these long riders would regain the right track and hook up with the short short route. This union would be temporary as everyone crawled up a short bank to be met by George Wilson who one again split the pack. The short rout carried on straight to the first checkpoint whereas the long route had to tackle the joys of Kidland forest first.

The long route got to enjoy a fast, 2 mile long forest track that took them all the way to the forest valley once more. A few people went a bit off piste here as they followed a walking route set out by the Mountain Rescue event. Luckily it was a small diversion as they could see other riders on the right track and soon got back on it. That road is one where people regularly hit 40mph+ but then finishes with a tasty sharp left turn which I’m hoping caught no-one out.

Now the foresttrack led the riders into the depths of Kidland forest. A place used for harvesting and not often visited it’s trees watch over people as they glide through. Ignoring the Whiteburnshank turning everyone had to go a little further until they hit the water stop at the foot of the Milkhope climb. Helen Kemp and Chris Ford topped up supplies and then gave everyone prophecies of doom about the fortcoming hill. Lowest gear would have been engaged, look down at front wheel and just keep pressing down on the pedals!

I love the view as the top of the Milkhope climb is reached. The trees give way to more far off vistas, other riders behind can be seen far below and the old farmstead of Milkhope is tucked into the trees behind you, hold untold stories of the past. Now that the riders were higher up they could make good progress on the hard packed ground that logging trucks use. A few miles into this increased pace they were met with a little fun section that took them off up the side of a hill, had to manage some technical riding between tree stumps and then came back down only to be faced with an arrow pointing into some tyre tracks. This old logging machinery track undulated whilst going parrallel to the forest track, occasionally splattering people with some deep muddy ruts. I can only imagine the inner joy as everyone popped out back onto the solid red track at the end.

There was a lot of red track action to follow with a seriously fast descent followed by switch backs getting back up onto th ehigh ground. It was around this time that the cloud dropped further as the riders went high up near the summit of Bloodybush some 2 or 3 miles before the checkpoint. Eventually all the riders wouldhaul themselves up to the tent pitched out on the far end of nowhere that was the checkpoint. Yvonne Kemp and Eileen Wilson occupied this spot alongside a couple of mountain rescue people. This veritable cake emporium allowed people to take stock of the situation, refuel and then get back on it.

The tent checkpoint was the spot where the long and the short hooked up once more. By this time the short riders were well off into the distance. Michael Lumb set off after them like a whippet, smiling all the way. Peter Squires was hot on his heels but his ride soon came to an end after two punctures dropped his pace and he waited for wife Jane so he could annoy her for the rest of the ride.

Both routes headed north from the checkpoint. Rumbling through the last of Kidland they soon popped out high above Usway Burn. This high speed, sweeping drop down into the valley takes nerver to do quickly with it’s off camber corners and blind summits. I spotted a lot of people taking the more sensible approach witha bit of brake action. Hopping over the bridge at the bottom they were greeted by a wicked little bank to get to Jim Imber at the final split point of the day. The short route hooked left and towards Trows whilst the long climbed up and onwards to Uswayford Forest.

Uswayford forest is a pretty special place in its own right. Not often visited by people, this is one of the most remote of the already remote Cheviot locations. Swaying trees tower high on either side and the road goes upwards. A right turn hooks you up with a glorious cross country ride on Salters Road through Davidsons Linn. A twisting track leads you down to a bridge and then a nasty tight switchback of a corner is covered with larger stones and desperately tries to get your foot down. Once through all of this there is a massive ride back to Salters Road entrance, all in the shadow of Cairn Hill and Cheviot staring down at the riders.

Popping out of the Uswayford Forest everyone would have been able to clearly see the summit of Windy Gyle in the distance. Instead of heading directly for this the course turned left and took up the route of Clennell street south on a grassy and lumpy track. Strewn with puddles, some deep ones at that, riders were forced to pay attention. Eventually the grassy madness ended at Hazely Law with a rough and rocky descent back to the main junction with Jim and rejoined the short route heading down towards Trows.

Clennell Colossus

It was around early afternoon that the rain decided it would play the game and abate. Views opened up and through the course of the afternoon the cloud level lifted. I did give a chuckle that it didn’t lift enough to clear the tops as Alan Wilson and Dave Smalls were stuck on summits all day and could see precisely nothing!

Trows to Windy Gyle. I’m pretty sure everyone would have read about this before the event and those who had not done it before had a certain amount of trepidation. Turning at the ford rider were faced with a gate then just a steep hill navigating the first bulky hill of the day. If your legs survived that then things leveled off somewhat but unfortunately the real task in hand was coming closer and looming ever larger. The final push up to the summit of Windy Gyle must surely have been just that – a push. This requires dry conditions and strong legs to clear it and the dry conditions were certainly not present on this day. At the top Alan Wilson was hiding in the cairn out of the wind waiting for you. His non-existent views for the day did get better for the final ten minutes of his stay :-)

Now all the riders had figured out why it’s called Windy Gyle. Strong gusts blew in across the ridge and several riders were blown clean off their bikes as they headed across to The Street. Once on this return route the wind was still so hard that many people had to ride DOWN into it. As the altitude dropped so did the wind and by the time people had reached the road down to Barrowburn they looked a bit like those cartoon characters with wide eyes and hair on end following an electric shock.

Kathryn and Scott are new farmers at Barrowbrun and due to them living in the house they decided not to carry on the cafe there. However, they decided to support the event and get in a shed load of pasties, sausage rolls, crisps and drinks. The first few fast riders flew straight through but the vast bulk stopped for a good feed and reassessment of life choices. Marshals Brian Kemp and Oliver kept everyone going and helped people if needed. All of those who purchased stuff you have directly helped a farming family in this remote Coquet valley and I thank you for that.

2 big climbs left. No-one would believe it but off they went anyway. Passing serenely by the pigs and beside The Deer Hut and Camping Barn there was a little drop which only aided the severity of the climb up to the Fairhaugh gate. A steep and relentless grassy track that eventually levels off near the top and opens up another fantastic vista in the National Park. Through a snall gate and then clamber over the forestry tracks before ploughing down to the small the bridge behind the white building of Fairhaugh. Paul Eggleston Brown awaited riders to point them in the right direction.

The “right direct” resulted in a punishing final climb of the day. Riding out of Fairhaugh is a solid forest track which is good for traction. Converse to thsi is th gradient which is like being repeatedly whacked in the face with a salmon until eventually gravity wins and a push is the best option. With legs well and truly shot the riders turned right at the top and made their way back to the tent checkpoint. No matter how many times people were told that “it’s all level or down for the next 4 miles” absolutely no-one believed it! For those that arrived here in the later afternoon it became bathed in glorious sunshine with views far off along the border ridge. The kind of views where you could sit and watch for hours and the sun and clouds dance over the landscape.

The return journey from the checkpoint really was being a bit too kind. A nice solid track followed by some small ascents but overall riders were going further and further down into the valley back to Clennell. A final reveral of the initial grassy field was rewarded with a super fast drop into the Alwin valley and then a gently roll back to Clennell Hall. Job done.

Crossing the line back into the marquee numbers were logged for the timing and then bikes were ceremoniously thrown to the floor as riders collapsed from the joy of it all being over. A lovely technical t-shirt, free beer and a chewy bar were reward for a long day in the saddle. Many people at meals in the hotel or sat round in the beer garden drinking beer as the sun shone down. It was great to see so many people investing in the local economy and at the end of the day these kind of places are absolutely dependent upon your generorsity.

At around 8pm the last riders crawled in, beaming smiles on their faces but legs well and truly beaten to a pulp. Feedback from all riders seems very positive and hopefully everyone will leave with great memories of a hard day out in the Cheviots. You’ve benefited the local economy and apart from one knackered shoulder you all came back intact. Thanks to everyone for turning up and to all the marshals who made the event happen. See you agan soon.

Pedalling Squares MOD Rocker Results

Here are some recorded times in alphabetical order.  Some times are missing, mainly due to people pulling out but also because some people didn’t get their time recorded on the summit as they went flying past my sister before she could grab the number.  If you need any alterations feel free to get in touch.

Start Chew Green Summit Split time Finish Overall time
1 Stan Allan 08:59:00 10:26:00 01:27:00 02:55:00 05:56:00
2 Ben Amaira 09:07:00 10:33:00 01:26:00 03:19:00 06:12:00
3 Geoff Anderson 08:51:00 10:40:00 01:49:00 03:36:00 06:45:00
4 Melanie Annable 09:01:00 10:14:00 01:13:00 02:30:00 05:29:00
5 Chris Annable 09:01:00 01:28:00 04:27:00
6 Stephen Armstrong 08:59:00 10:16:00 01:17:00 02:22:00 05:23:00
7 Thomas Baines 09:17:00 10:39:00 01:22:00 03:22:00 06:05:00
8 Wayne Baker 08:48:00 10:13:00 01:25:00 02:22:00 05:34:00
9 Mark Barr 09:10:00 10:20:00 01:10:00 03:18:00 06:08:00
10 John Stewart Beaty 09:12:00 09:59:00 00:47:00 03:13:00 06:01:00
11 Brian Bellamy 09:05:00 10:25:00 01:20:00 02:42:00 05:37:00
12 Paul Beveridge 09:02:00 10:26:00 01:24:00 02:59:00 05:57:00
13 Steven Birbeck 08:55:00 10:01:00 01:06:00 01:25:00 04:30:00
14 Graham Biscoe 09:05:00 10:29:00 01:24:00 02:53:00 05:48:00
15 Dominic Blythe 08:54:00 09:56:00 01:02:00
16 Dieter Booth
17 keith BOYLAN 09:12:00 10:43:00 01:31:00
18 Ailsa Bradshaw 09:17:00 10:43:00 01:26:00 03:18:00 06:01:00
19 David Bradshaw 09:17:00 10:43:00 01:26:00 03:18:00 06:01:00
20 Jack Bradshaw 09:17:00 10:33:00 01:16:00 02:57:00 05:40:00
21 Carl Brammer 09:17:00 10:39:00 01:22:00 03:22:00 06:05:00
22 Geoff Brindle 08:57:00 10:30:00 01:33:00 03:50:00 06:53:00
23 Martin Brooks 08:54:00 10:05:00 01:11:00 02:07:00 05:13:00
24 David Brown 09:02:00 10:42:00 01:40:00
25 Jim Bumby 08:52:00 10:22:00 01:30:00 02:57:00 06:05:00
26 Brian Burgh 08:50:00 10:56:00 02:06:00 05:25:00 08:35:00
27 Gavin Burton 08:59:00 10:42:00 01:43:00
28 Gary Byers 08:54:00 10:00:00 01:06:00 01:52:00 04:58:00
29 William Calder 09:17:00 10:33:00 01:16:00 02:57:00 05:40:00
30 Christopher Campin 09:10:00 10:26:00 01:16:00 02:50:00 05:40:00
31 Paul Carr 10:09:00 10:09:00 02:56:00 14:56:00
32 Liam Carr 08:55:00 10:01:00 01:06:00 02:04:00 05:09:00
191 Patrick Carr 08:57:00 10:11:00 01:14:00 02:53:00 05:56:00
33 Jeff Catling 08:48:00 10:00:00 01:12:00 01:30:00 04:42:00
34 Chris Chambers 09:05:00 10:55:00 01:50:00 03:52:00 06:47:00
35 Damian Chandler
36 Jonathan Chapman 08:59:00 10:24:00 01:25:00 03:36:00 06:37:00
37 Peter Chipchase 08:55:00 10:24:00 01:29:00 03:36:00 06:41:00
38 michael clark 09:04:00 10:10:00 01:06:00 01:24:00 04:20:00
39 Timothy Clark 09:02:00 10:31:00 01:29:00 03:44:00 06:42:00
40 Peter Close 08:59:00 10:37:00 01:38:00 04:14:00 07:15:00
41 Paul Cook 08:57:00 10:30:00 01:33:00 03:50:00 06:53:00
193 Chris Craig 08:50:00 10:10:00 01:20:00 01:40:00 04:50:00
43 Graham Crammond
44 Jan Dabrowski
45 Craig Deacon 09:04:00 10:02:00 00:58:00 01:34:00 04:30:00
46 John Dennis
47 Andrew Dickson 09:10:00 10:25:00 01:15:00 02:00:00 04:50:00
48 Steven Dixon 09:04:00 10:24:00 01:20:00 03:17:00 06:13:00
49 Robert Djaelani 09:12:00 10:20:00 01:08:00 02:30:00 05:18:00
50 Steve Dodd 09:02:00 10:34:00 01:32:00 01:40:00 04:38:00
51 Carolyn Dougherty
52 Luke Driscoll 08:50:00 10:17:00 01:27:00 02:28:00 05:38:00
188 Craig Ducat 09:02:00 10:04:00 01:02:00 01:17:00 04:15:00
53 Barry Eastham 09:09:00 10:23:00 01:14:00 02:08:00 04:59:00
54 Neil Faulder 09:01:00 10:37:00 01:36:00 04:14:00 07:13:00
55 Keith Fawcett 08:48:00 10:13:00 01:25:00 02:20:00 05:32:00
56 Paul (Michael) Fiddes (Simmons) 08:48:00 10:13:00 01:25:00 02:22:00 05:34:00
57 Gary Fletcher 08:59:00 10:26:00 01:27:00 03:36:00 06:37:00
58 Samantha Fletcher 09:09:00 10:44:00 01:35:00 03:50:00 06:41:00
59 John Forster 09:01:00 10:12:00 01:11:00 02:16:00 05:15:00
60 David Fulton 09:09:00 10:23:00 01:14:00 02:08:00 04:59:00
198 Chris Gillespie 09:55:00 11:47:00 01:52:00
192 Andrew Gordon 09:12:00 10:20:00 01:08:00 02:26:00 05:14:00
61 Mark Graham 09:01:00 10:12:00 01:11:00 02:15:00 05:14:00
62 Martin Graham 09:04:00 10:15:00 01:11:00 01:36:00 04:32:00
63 Stephen Graham
64 Eddie Halstead 08:59:00 10:13:00 01:14:00 01:33:00 04:34:00
65 Richard Hardy 09:07:00 10:29:00 01:22:00 03:34:00 06:27:00
66 Rob Harker
67 Sheena Harrison 09:09:00 10:28:00 01:19:00 02:53:00 05:44:00
68 Neil Harrison 09:10:00 10:26:00 01:16:00 02:50:00 05:40:00
69 David Harrison 08:50:00 10:01:00 01:11:00 02:27:00 05:37:00
196 James Harrison 09:55:00 11:47:00 01:52:00
70 Andy Haw 09:01:00 10:14:00 01:13:00 02:30:00 05:29:00
71 Thomas Hayes
72 Derek Henderson 09:02:00 10:26:00 01:24:00 02:59:00 05:57:00
73 Barry Herron 08:55:00 10:12:00 01:17:00 02:17:00 05:22:00
74 Michael Hill 09:00:00 10:06:00 01:06:00 02:56:00 05:56:00
75 Simon Hilton
76 stu hindmarsh 08:48:00 10:00:00 01:12:00 01:30:00 04:42:00
77 John Hogg 08:52:00 10:26:00 01:34:00 02:19:00 05:27:00
78 Paul Hogg 08:48:00 10:13:00 01:25:00 02:22:00 05:34:00
79 Anita Hok
80 Abby Holder 08:54:00 10:08:00 01:14:00 02:38:00 05:44:00
81 Ben Holmes 08:54:00 10:06:00 01:12:00 01:54:00 05:00:00
82 Graeme Hood 08:55:00 10:25:00 01:30:00 03:36:00 06:41:00
83 Steve Hope 09:10:00 10:15:00 01:05:00 01:30:00 04:20:00
84 Paul Iredale 08:54:00 10:24:00 01:30:00 02:39:00 05:45:00
85 Claire Jackson 09:01:00 10:14:00 01:13:00 02:30:00 05:29:00
189 Brendon Jackson 09:01:00 10:14:00 01:13:00 02:30:00 05:29:00
86 Barry James 09:02:00 10:26:00 01:24:00 02:55:00 05:53:00
87 Lee John 08:59:00 10:12:00 01:13:00 01:52:00 04:53:00
88 Gareth Kane 08:50:00 10:03:00 01:13:00 01:58:00 05:08:00
89 David Kaye 09:12:00 10:43:00 01:31:00
90 Michael Kebell 08:57:00 01:24:00 04:27:00
91 Steve Keightley 08:57:00 10:22:00 01:25:00 03:36:00 06:39:00
92 Steven Kyffin 09:12:00 10:20:00 01:08:00 02:26:00 05:14:00
93 Richard Laycock 09:07:00 10:30:00 01:23:00 03:10:00 06:03:00
94 Joseph Leiserach 08:52:00
95 Dragan Lekic 09:10:00 11:00:00 01:50:00 05:25:00 08:15:00
96 Ben Line 09:09:00 10:25:00 01:16:00 02:00:00 04:51:00
97 Michael Lucas 08:54:00 10:24:00 01:30:00 03:10:00 06:16:00
98 Robert Mahon
99 Bill Manning 09:05:00 10:55:00 01:50:00 04:30:00 07:25:00
100 Paul Marriner 09:04:00 10:36:00 01:32:00 03:44:00 06:40:00
101 stephen marrs
102 Adam Marshall 08:57:00 10:10:00 01:13:00 cut short #VALUE!
103 Ruth Marshall 08:55:00 10:28:00 01:33:00 03:42:00 06:47:00
104 Jane Massey 09:09:00 10:43:00 01:34:00 03:50:00 06:41:00
105 David Mayer 09:07:00 10:29:00 01:22:00 03:39:00 06:32:00
106 Gavin Mccrindle 09:05:00 10:34:00 01:29:00 01:40:00 04:35:00
107 Dermot McGilligan 09:12:00 10:20:00 01:08:00 02:26:00 05:14:00
108 Graham Mckinney 08:50:00 10:10:00 01:20:00 02:30:00 05:40:00
109 Calum Meikle 08:52:00 10:26:00 01:34:00 02:19:00 05:27:00
110 Rodney Molyneux 08:51:00 10:36:00 01:45:00 04:13:00 07:22:00
111 Gary Moore
112 Robert Mullen 08:51:00 10:32:00 01:41:00 04:06:00 07:15:00
113 Robert Munro
114 Jason Murphy 09:12:00 10:10:00 00:58:00 01:17:00 04:05:00
115 Sean Murray 09:04:00
116 Darren Neale 09:05:00 10:24:00 01:19:00 03:15:00 06:10:00
117 David Nearney 09:02:00 10:02:00 01:00:00 01:34:00 04:32:00
118 Steven Neil 08:51:00 10:56:00 02:05:00 05:25:00 08:34:00
119 Thomas Nelson 09:05:00 10:17:00 01:12:00 02:42:00 05:37:00
120 Mark Nelson 08:51:00 10:06:00 01:15:00 02:15:00 05:24:00
121 Ivan Newton 09:10:00 10:26:00 01:16:00 02:50:00 05:40:00
195 Michael Noble 09:55:00 11:47:00 01:52:00 03:28:00 05:33:00
122 Matt Oakley 08:51:00 10:13:00 01:22:00 02:27:00 05:36:00
123 Sarah Palmer 09:09:00 10:40:00 01:31:00 03:31:00 06:22:00
124 Bob Parker 09:01:00 10:12:00 01:11:00 02:15:00 05:14:00
125 Neil Patchett 08:48:00 02:22:00 05:34:00
126 John Pearson 09:10:00 10:49:00 01:39:00 03:20:00 06:10:00
127 Steven Pilkington 09:07:00 10:33:00 01:26:00 02:34:00 05:27:00
128 Sarah Pilkington 09:07:00 10:33:00 01:26:00 03:31:00 06:24:00
129 tania porteous 09:04:00 10:46:00 01:42:00
130 Carol Prior 09:09:00 10:44:00 01:35:00 03:50:00 06:41:00
131 Scot Purves 08:52:00 10:06:00 01:14:00 02:14:00 05:22:00
132 Paul Raymond 08:51:00 10:33:00 01:42:00 04:05:00 07:14:00
133 Monica Readman 08:52:00 10:56:00 02:04:00 05:25:00 08:33:00
134 Helen Richardson 09:09:00 10:28:00 01:19:00 02:53:00 05:44:00
135 John Rippon 08:57:00 09:59:00 01:02:00 01:27:00 04:30:00
136 Steve Robert 08:52:00 10:11:00 01:19:00 02:52:00 06:00:00
137 Christian Roberts
138 Phil Robinson 09:07:00 10:24:00 01:17:00 02:23:00 05:16:00
139 Valerie Robinson 09:04:00 10:55:00 01:51:00 02:38:00 05:34:00
140 Bryan Robinson 08:54:00 09:52:00 00:58:00 12:54:00 16:00:00
141 John Routledge 09:10:00 10:25:00 01:15:00 02:00:00 04:50:00
142 George Russell 08:48:00 10:16:00 01:28:00 02:48:00 06:00:00
143 Robert Sanderson 09:02:00 10:33:00 01:31:00 04:07:00 07:05:00
144 Josephine Sanderson 09:04:00 10:55:00 01:51:00 02:38:00 05:34:00
145 Carmen Scott 09:17:00 10:33:00 01:16:00 02:57:00 05:40:00
146 Graeme Self 09:07:00 10:12:00 01:05:00 01:44:00 04:37:00
147 Marta Serafin 08:51:00 10:56:00 02:05:00 05:25:00 08:34:00
148 Wilf Sergant 09:17:00 10:39:00 01:22:00 03:16:00 05:59:00
149 William Sharman 08:55:00 10:26:00 01:31:00 02:40:00 05:45:00
150 Richard Sharp
151 Stuart Shiel 08:59:00 10:11:00 01:12:00 02:13:00 05:14:00
152 Karen Singleton 09:09:00 10:43:00 01:34:00 03:50:00 06:41:00
153 David Smart
154 Cheryl Stanley 08:51:00 10:56:00 02:05:00 05:25:00 08:34:00
197 Richard Steedman 09:55:00 11:47:00 01:52:00 03:28:00 05:33:00
155 Mark Stephenson 09:02:00 10:42:00 01:40:00
156 Gary Stephenson 08:55:00 10:28:00 01:33:00 03:42:00 06:47:00
157 john storey 09:04:00 10:46:00 01:42:00 04:53:00 07:49:00
158 Darren Stow 08:50:00 09:51:00 01:01:00 12:55:00 4:05:00
159 John Swanston 09:10:00 10:33:00 01:23:00
160 Ferenc Szendi 08:48:00 10:17:00 01:29:00 02:23:00 05:35:00
161 Dean Taylor 09:01:00 10:12:00 01:11:00 02:15:00 05:14:00
162 Howard Taylor 09:05:00 10:29:00 01:24:00 03:34:00 06:29:00
163 Graham Thompson 08:52:00 10:10:00 01:18:00 02:00:00 05:08:00
164 Neil Thompson 09:09:00 10:13:00 01:04:00 02:12:00 05:03:00
165 Lee Tones 08:52:00 10:15:00 01:23:00 02:42:00 05:50:00
166 Andrew Tones 08:57:00 10:00:00 01:03:00 01:25:00 04:28:00
167 Oliver Townsend 08:54:00 10:08:00 01:14:00 02:10:00 05:16:00
168 Carl Tuer 09:07:00 10:29:00 01:22:00 03:34:00 06:27:00
169 Andrew Turland 08:50:00 10:13:00 01:23:00 01:58:00 05:08:00
170 Janet Turner 08:50:00 10:56:00 02:06:00 05:25:00 08:35:00
171 Natasha Vukas 08:52:00 11:00:00 02:08:00
172 Kevin Wake 09:05:00 10:24:00 01:19:00 03:15:00 06:10:00
173 Chris Walker 08:51:00 10:13:00 01:22:00 02:28:00 05:37:00
174 Clifford Walton 08:54:00 10:00:00 01:06:00 02:04:00 05:10:00
175 Graeme Wells 08:57:00 10:10:00 01:13:00 02:06:00 05:09:00
176 Malcolm West 09:10:00 10:26:00 01:16:00 02:50:00 05:40:00
177 Terry Whatson 08:57:00 10:13:00 01:16:00 02:20:00 05:23:00
178 Liam Whitelaw 08:50:00 09:52:00 01:02:00 01:04:00 04:14:00
179 Steve Wilkes 09:05:00 10:29:00 01:24:00 03:34:00 06:29:00
180 Mark Wilkinson 09:07:00 10:33:00 01:26:00 03:31:00 06:24:00
181 Robert Willers 08:55:00 10:11:00 01:16:00 02:10:00 05:15:00
182 Simon Willis
183 Colin Wilson
184 Denise Wilson 10:56:00 10:56:00 05:25:00 17:25:00
194 Neil Wold 09:12:00 10:43:00 01:31:00
185 John Wolstenholme 08:59:00 10:14:00 01:15:00 01:55:00 04:56:00
186 Andrew Wood
187 Jason Woodhouse 08:48:00 10:01:00 01:13:00 01:58:00 05:10:00
190 ?? ?? 08:55:00 10:02:00 01:07:00 01:29:00 04:34:00

Kielder Chiller 24 2017 Review

teamcyclesI took my dog for a walk on Monday morning after the event only to find Pedaling Squares cafe was closed. I should know it’s closed every Monday. Clearly the mind is not working as it did pre Kielder Chiller 24. On the way home I stopped for a coffee at Starbucks next the Metrocentre. Strangely enough sitting outside in the winter air actually felt bizarrely warm. As I sat supping a hot drink I couldn’t help but look around and the buzz of people milling around. Business meetings, laptops clicking away, friends catching up etc. This was a whole world away from 24 hours earlier when I’d joined a host of like minded maniacs for 24 hours of frenetic madness in the eye of a mealstrom.

Kielder Chiller 24It all began in 2014 when the idea first popped in to my head to do something I’d always thought about but never stepped across that rubicon to make it happen. High Fell Events came into being and top of my wish list was a 24 hour mountain bike race. Just the small issue of figuring out where, when, how and all that jazz. Fast forward a few years and I must have covered pretty much all the mtb trails in the north east and settled on Kielder as the obvous choice with its combination of potential for cold weather, remote setting and hard wearing trails. For 2 years I plugged away trying to get insurance and then just as I was about to give up a lovely man called Fraser from No Fuss Events popped up and saved the day.

Mountain FuelWith chips now all lined up it was time to pull the trigger as it was September and the event was in Feb. Alex MacLennan of the Forestry Commission helped massively in determining where the event should take place and offered a huge amount of advice and assurances that it can all be done. It was hard to find a route that ticked all the boxes in terms of rights of way, parking, facilities, exposure, accessibility and so forth. Settling on the Deadwater Red as a starting point it was then just a case of removing tricky bits and adding in some forest tracks that could be used for parking.

And lo the mighty lord came down from the heavens and said “let there be 24 hour racing at Kielder” and thus there was. The weekend of reckoning came along and all the crazy plans upon plans with further revised plans had to be put into effect. Having a top marshal team always helps and they just got stuck in as usual. Cars arrived on Friday night, some at Hawkhirst to stay there and others in B&Bs and lay bys in the immediate vicinity. My own sleep was none existent with a brain that was ticking over at 10,000 rpm. When the alarm fizzed into life at 5am I was already up and at it.  My brother and Jim Imber arrived soon after and full on prep was on the agenda.

Kielder Chiller 24Stepping out of the marquee in which I’d slept I was greeted by a blanket of snow all around. “Bollocks” went though my head first and then I’d downgraded that to “well this could be interesting”. I jumped in my car and did a few circuits of the main parking areas to try and wear away the snow before parking commenced. There was no way cars could get up these hills if the snow turned out to be too thick. There’s one thing going up in my 4×4 with huge off road tyres and it’s quite another doing it in a van or car with normal road tyres. Luckily enough some grooves were made and when the first cars made it up successfully it was just a matter of getting them all out on the course.

Parking was always going to be an issue. I’d built my plans around having all three tiers in the car park but couldn’t get use of that all important bottom tier. Hence the forest sections were set out with parking provisions and the main drag, the high exposed bit, was marked up to have cars lined up all along it with just a small gap left for riding. What actually happened is that nearly all the cars fitted in lay-bys so the forest track was hardly blocked at all. This meant a lot of people must have been pitting together and sharing vehicles. I’d walked round and invesigated all nearby fields for suitability but nothing ticked the boxes so as the saying goes: it is what it is.

Cars were placed on the course, Jim Imber handled the car park area whilst Brian (better know as Dad to me) helped with the forest tracks stuff. Joanne (sister) and Yvonne (Mam) met everyone as they arrived and directed to the right place. It was quite a sight to come back to the car park and find an array of gazeebos, vans and cars all to the tune of buzzing generators and the clanking of mechanical prep. With 90 minutes to go until the start it was time for everyone to get registered and receive their invaluable sportident timing chip.

The clocked edged its way closer to midday and the medical team were not on site. A few frantic calls later and they were located via a tracker as being half way up the resevoir. It was good to know they were near but life was a lot easier when I could physically see them with my own eyes! With the final brick falling in to place it was time for a quick safety briefing. The usual safety stuff was followed by a speech from Alex MacLennan who pointed out that this inaugural event could become an iconic showpiece for the trails of Kielder.

A short shuffle up to the starting line and as soon as everyone was ready it was game time and we’re off. The quad led them off and was soon off into the distance leaving the riders behind. The singletrack was skipped but not the second bit at Primrose Wood as David Wilson and his son pointed people into the woods for the first action of the day. With a bit more forest track to spread people out it was then just the small matter of bunched riders all going into the rock gardens at the same time. I heard there were a few moments and I had a chuckle when the stories came though.

Was the course marked out properly? Would someone go the wrong way? Luckily I had someone check the route in the morning and report all was fine. Sure enough some 40 minutes after the off the first riders came careering in to the marquee, dibbed and then shot off into the distance once more. And thus began the rythm of the next 24 hours. Suddenly from this point onwards things seem to calm down as the course was functioning as planned. The only issue was the sudden rush of riders and Helen and Joanne processed them efficiently and sent them on their way.

Times indicated that people had gone out fast. A few of those whom I’d expected to be quick were actually well down the table. This meant they were either off their game or more likley was that they knew what pacing was all about. It would be apparent that these people would slowly rise up through the rankings over the course of the event, proving that consistency is key.

Kielder Chiller 24There is no hiding the fact that the first 12 hours of this race were done in simply horrific winter conditions. I have nothing but total respect and admiration for every rider that put on their kit and headed out into conditions more suitable for penguins than humans. Even the sheep had ran for cover. This was about the time Ben Othen had us in stiches as we watched him fruitlessly try to bail out his tent. Finally I think he just gave up and slept in a few inches of water. In the lower areas, such as David Wilson’s marshal point on Lightpipes road there was next to no wind to be had. Conversely on the now legendary high road the levels of exposure were like some kind of Alaskan reality TV show.

To counter this cold there were a number of ingenius tactics deployed by riders and support crews. A well thought out back to back Transit camp setup took a great deal of thought. Double sized marquees pushed together for shared heat. My personal favourite was the teepee with wood burning stove inside that was possibly the most cosy place of all to be. Damp clothes were hanging from above and they all sat round in shorts and t-shirts while the snow fell hard outside.

The sense of responsibility at an event like this is immense. I can only compare it to feeling like you have loads of members of your own family doing something quite extreme for a long time. Continuous pressure is the name of the game. This was all rendered useless when I was told I had to go and make a phone call immediately down at The Bike Place. I ran down to speak to Linda back in the office. She told me one of the competitors children had been taken to hospital and to get that person to ring home immediately. Well the first challenge was finding that person but as luck would have it some 20 minutes later they came into the marquee area. They had to leave immediately as some things in life are top priority. I’m glad to report it all turned out fine in the end.

A few hours passed and the weather continued it’s gloriously bad state. Blizzards frequented the high road and rain battered off the marquees down low. The low road following the mad high pass had quickly turned into a mud fest and rendered a whole new element to the course. It was also at this time that people realised that Kielder has a lot of its tracks built with sandstone and when it’s lashing it down this very same grit works its way everywhere. Brake pads were disintigrating like candy floss. Cycleworks North East and The Bike Place were getting frequent vists from frantic bikers wondering why their pads were evaporating into the night sky. Several people had seized brakes or had worn through to their calipers.

The light faded around 5pm and soon that magical sight of bright led lights zipped through the air. There’s something etheral about seeing these powerful lights moving through the trees at night. The riders at the sharp end of things were well into their stride now. Naomi Frierich was in annihilation mode and banged out the laps to open up a huge gap. Her husband was checking the timing screen and calculating with alarming accuracy just what was needed to get the job done. The i-cycles team were obviously well drilled and shouted out to the next rider as they came in.

It was around this time that I’d figured that I hadn’t really seen any of the familiar faces such as Rich Rothwell, Rich Smith, Jason Woodhouse or Keith Fawcett. I realised that the thick mud had made everyone look a similar shade of brown and it was hard distinguishng one rider from another. Maybe there should have been a marshal with a jet wash to blast everyone at the end of the lap. Let’s be fair, no-one could get any wetter!

At around 11:30 the action faded away. Most sensible people decided that 11 and a half hours of riding in a frozen tundra was job done and hit the sack for some shut eye. Not even the largest dose of very fine sports nutrition from Mountain Fuel was going to keep anyone going at this hour. The flow of riders into the main tent turned into a trickle with the leaders being the main riders circulating. The quads just kept going on and on and more disconcertingly the fastest of these quads were still putting in some proper tasty laps.

There was a nice little pattern forming from midnight to around 5am. This was also the hardest point of the event from the marshal point view as staying awake was becoming an issue. Personally my body ached for sleep and several times I tried to nod off but the overworked mind wouldn’t allow it. I wishes I was at the party tent, marshal point 3, with Yvonne, Eileen, George and Brian. Eventually when the light came round again peoples bodies came back to life and the numbers out on the circuit increased once more.

Kielder Chiller 24The final few hours dragged then speeded up and then dragged once more. Was my mind playing tricks on me? At this point the positions had fallen into place and the race was on. A few people could stop early and knew their day was won. Others needed to press on and bang in some more good laps to try and gain or retain their standing. It was fascinating to see people who were clearly out on their feet somehow muster the energy to get back on that bike one more time and make it count. Awesome. Gemma Towell took some serious convincing by her pit crew to get back out there… but she did.

45nrthFinally 12 came round and the race was run. Some simply stunning performances had won the day. Away from the sharp end were oustanding achievments across the board. David Goddy from Jedburgh is a guy of similar fitness to myself so I’d expect a quarter to halfway through the pack finish. He had other plans though. Driven on by a charity close to his heart and his own steely resilience he bagged a top ten finish, smashing the ball clearly out of the park. Nic Gilbert is another one. He’s never going to win a 24 hour event but there’s some grit in there to hang on in for 24 hours and keep going to finish in the middle of the pack. Top, top effort.

The presentation was held at 12:30 and was well attended. Keith Fawcett tried to deny his team a podium finish in the male quads but Martin from Sportident was having none of it. Team JMC had a good showing, i-cycles blew the male quads and max laps clean out of the water with NIER doing the same in the mixed quads. Richard Rothwell won the male solo category and Naomu Frierisch the female. In the pairs Team JMC/USE Exposure took the title for males and the Disco Calves for the mixed team. Keith Forsyth took home the 45NRTH boots for a stunning fastest lap of 37:22.  A huge thanks to Team Cycles for the prizes and all the help and encouragement leading up to the day.  North East Cycleworks also need a mention for the amazing amount of brake pads they managed to change.

Whilst drinking that coffee outside Starbucks all that effort, all those meetings and endless planning and preparation somehow seemed worth it. To be part of a larger family for a couple of days and to witness the physical and mental strength of people was something special. It’ll take a few weeks and months to reflect on things and decide whether to run it again or not. Whatever happens, the Kielder Chiller 24 of 2017 was truly something special.

For further reading here are some other peoples blogs:

Cycling Generation’s Richard Rothwell

Naomi Frierich’s reflections

Team JMC Richie and Lisa

North East Cycleworks blog


Dib Dib – Be Prepared

This time in two weeks you’ll be riding in the dark at the Kielder Chiller 24.  If it’s raining or sleet then you could be as sick as a proverbial chip but no doubt you’ll be stoically continuing onwards.  Having spent a few days up there recently it’s clear that the climate at Kielder is different to our towns and cities.  Kielder itself already sits at 200m above sea level and is subject to a westerly/ northerly prevailing wind.  This means that in winter it gets cold.  Not only that but it can get wet, I mean they didn’t build a reservoir here because it’s a nice and dry place to be.

I’d like to take the chance to mention a few things as you prepare for the big day.  Firstly, if you haven’t already read the excellent article by Richard Rothwell then make sure you cast your eyes over it here.  In there you will find expert tips from someone who has been there and done it.  I’d like to reinforce a few of his points given recent rides in and around Kielder in the last few weeks.

One major issue to deal with will obviously be the cold.  How are you planning to keep yourself warm over 24 hours?  This issue is only exacerbated if it is raining.  During one quick lap today I noticed my legs got very cold because I was wearing tights and not waterproofs.  A few more laps like that and I would most definitely be feeling it.  So bring waterproofs (ones that can take some stick), get some long tights to cover your whole legs and have multiple changes of clothes that you can swap through the duration of the event.  Also look at protecting those extremities with some shoe covers, some glove liners and a buff is great for ear cover.

OK, let’s say you do get cold, what strategies do you have in mind to rewarm yourself if needed?  A blindingly obvious one is to jump in your car and get the heaters on.  To do this you’ll need to remember to top up your tank before setting off.  It took me 45 minutes driving home to get my hands back to normal.

How are you planning to keep your lights going?  You need to plan to be self sufficient so have a think about multiple batteries, multiple lights or some kind of recharging solution.  A few people have asked about generators, yes you can bring one but please try and make it one of the silent ones.  Clanking a big diesel gennie is not going to win us any friends.

One event vehicle per team is allowed out on the course.  Today I tested the forest drive areas to form a parking plan.  The forest tracks are not the widest but can safely take a vehicle and still allow plenty of space for passing bikes.

Kielder Chiller Parking

The example shown above is one of the actual tracks that will be used on the event and is one of the narrower parts.  Although it’s blindingly obvious I’ll say it anyway – try not to open the door on the side where the riders are going past!  Any shelters you may be bringing will be best placed behind your vehicle and not be wider than that vehicle.  In the picture is my Land Cruiser which is wider than a Mercedes Sprinter van.  I’ve had four special requests already for extra large vehicles, if you are planning to bring one please get in touch.  All other vehicles other than the designated event vehicle need to be placed at the FC car park behind the Anglers Arms – there is a small charge for staying there.

When I set out into the forest section early this morning I noticed that the pools of water on the ground were frozen.  Clearly this is an issue if your riding your bike and make sure you are prepared for it.  It’s also an issue for your vehicle to get out onto the course.  No matter if you’re in the car park or out on the course, every parking spot requires your vehicle to go up hill.  It’s up to you to make sure you have the traction to get up these hills should it be slushy and icy like today.  Fingers crossed it’s not though.

Food.  Plan to bring lots and lots of food.  The cafe in Kielder Castle will be open early on Saturday until around 8pm on Saturday night.  We’re planning to have some food options for you to purchase on the cheap through the night until the cafe opens once again on Sunday morning.  If it was me riding my car would be full to the brim with food!  Try to remember a burner if you’re planning to bring hot food.  Hot food and drink is very good for morale.

To get more of an understanding of all of this I’d recommend a visit to ride the route.  There’s a free recce ride on Sat 4th Feb and here you can check out ground conditions and try to get a handle on how much effort you’re going to meter out over 24 hours.  It’s all about the strategy!

Can’t wait for the big day now.  It’s going to be epic!


Clennell Colossus by Davd Plumb

David Plumb is a 60 year old mountain biker used to trampling the trails of Yorkshire, Lancashire and beyond. Good humoured with a lust for life and a constant smile. Here are some words he put together about the Clennell Colossus.

What did I think of doing and completing the full route ..

David PlumbIt was awesome, tiring, exhilarating, challenging, fun, frustrating and an adrenaline rush from start to finish. This is no pushover as an event (no pun intended) it tests everything involved in taking your bike into the beautiful scenery on offer and that makes it a great event. This was my 60th birthday present to my self with one aim to say I did it and I did it big style.

I travelled from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire to the event and took advantage of the bunk room offer at the hall so travelled up the night before. Weapon of choice for this event was my specialized stumpjumper 29 er full suspension…..good choice.

What would I encounter on my adventure?  Well it was changeable weather to start; wet and misty before clearing and drying up so plenty of mud and slippery sections . The terrain encountered was at least varied haha… grassy fields marked out with directions rutted farm tracks. Very steep climbs of varying difficulty and distances ( helpful signs such as “get off and push now”). The old adage of what goes up must come down doesn’t apply to this challenge. Slippy Yorkshire stone flags with nice boggy mud either side of them not laid neatly in a path but with interesting gaps and inclines to keep you concentrating on staying upright. The mentioned grass isn’t all short and mown various lengths and thickness. Natural hazards in abundance the one constant sheep droppings you and your bike will smell !!.

Fire road sections are included but don’t get sucked in because there is a section called the Somme it is well named very muddy single track fallen and cut trees a desolate looking section. It was an experience all on its own twice over the bars having put the front wheel into about a foot and half deep mud did wonders for my complexion. Then with the finish in sight there is a sign that takes you off a really good fire road and takes you back and forth through a river before letting you back on the track, Barry has a great sense of humour, even over 9 hrs in I just smiled as I got wetter.

Don’t expect a fanfare when you finish just enjoy the feeling of finishing and completing the challenge. Best aspects of the event it tests everything you and your bike. The feed stations well stocked well needed and well run very nice flapjack . It feels like a family run event very welcoming. I had one major off at speed and one major save and lots of little ones but I finished and yes I would and will do it again.

Thanks for the memories



Ben Shannon Interview – Kielder Chiller 24

Ben Shannon took time out his training for his mad adventure racing to answer a few questions on the Kielder Chiller 24.

ben shannon

Photo: Eddie Winthorpe

What made you sign up for the Kielder Chiller 24?

I wanted to do a 24 hour MTB race for some training and i expect the kielder chiller to be hard but stunning.

Are you mad?

Well, I’m not normal if that’s what you As an adventure racer i am drawn to anything long distance, anything that will cause sleep deprevation or just plain old suffering. So when i saw this event i thought that i needed to do it.

Where are you coming from?


What bike(s) are you using for the ride?

Cube 29er carbon Hardtail. I love it to bits, none of this fat bike nonesense. LOL

How are you planning to set up for the night – car, campervan, gazeebo etc?

For the race? I wont be sleeping, I’ll have the bed set up in my campervan if it turns into an epic and i need a few minutes but i intend to do it in a oner. I will have many spare changes of clothing should i get wet/cold

What do you think will be the hardest aspect of the event?

The cold!!! When my fingers and toes go cold then i really struggle so keeping them warm will be interesting. Thinking about using my kayak pogies.LOL.

Got any tips for anyone trying this for the first time?

Eat, eat, eat some more, then eat again. Eating food will obviously give you energy to keep riding, but it also keeps you warm. Variety in your food. Just because you love flapjack, does not mean you will love it at 3am when your stomach is in turmoil and you really dont want to eat anymore. Take many different types of food, and i mean real food. There are only so many energy bars and gels you will stomach before they cause you insane levels of nausea just to look at. you want real food. I like cold pizza, little bags of pasta and pesto, sandwiches, nuts, bananas, scotch eggs, bags of olives. take more savoury than sweet. I love haribo but you will get sick of the sweet stuff, plus, sugar burn on the tongue is horrid. So, yeah, food is key.

Are you bringing any friends or family to help cheer you along?

Yes, I think Lou, my awesome wife/support crew will be there, plus some of my other friends from NAV4 Adventure are racing too so i think they will all look after me.

The 24 Hour Question

Well, since High Fell Events announced the running of the Kielder Chiller 24hr mountain bike race in February, I have already been hit by the myriad of questions that inevitably pop up for those new to the crazy idea of riding a bike for 24hrs!

Where to start… I could write reams on this! So, I thought the easiest approach was to offer some advice, relative to team size. Some of the ideas apply to all team sizes of course. I’ve competed in all the formats for over eight years now. Here are some key tips that have helped me complete several 24hr solo and team races (and ‘mostly’ avert disaster!).

Let’s start at the business end; the team of one. You. The single assassin. The 24hr solo rider. Life will never feel the same again! (It will feel MUCH easier).


Richard Rothwell 24 Hour mtbHow do you train for this?! Be honest with yourself; do you want to ride continuously or take long breaks? If it’s the former, then let’s be honest, you need to do quite a lot of training! However, whilst there needs to be a degree of quantity, quality always wins out. Yes, you will need to do some long rides but if you can ride continuously for 6 to 8 hours at a steady pace without collapsing, then you are ready for a 24hr solo. Try to integrate strength training into your riding, whether that is on or off the bike. On the bike, steep mountain bike terrain will help, as will over geared seated efforts on or off road. Off the bike, core strength exercises such as push ups / pull ups, the ‘plank’, or squats can also be very beneficial and don’t require a gym membership! Nor do they take up much time. I tend to go for longer sustained ‘on bike’ efforts in training because they more closely match the effort levels and effort durations often found in endurance events (I am sure Barry will have a ‘little’ climb or two ready for us!).

Ride as consistently and frequently as you can between now and February; your endurance builds over time and is not the result of any one ‘big’ ride. Better to spread it out, for example, 10 hours riding over five days rather than two long ones at the weekend, which will leave you tired for a few days. Take an easier week every three weeks to recover and adapt to the training load.

Perhaps more importantly, be mentally trained! It will be rewarding but very hard; accept that, and embrace it. Get out there in bad conditions and learn to love it! Get comfortable with the wet and the cold. Test your kit. Try new things now, not on the day of the race! Devise or sign up to a training plan and carry it out. Confidence in your preparation will get you a long way!

OK, let’s be straight; it is VERY hard (but not impossible) to do this on your own! You WILL need some help! Whether that’s a full on ‘support crew’ or shared support from next door’s pit, a helper is going to make your life a lot easier. Having somebody carry out simple jobs like handing out food and drink, fetching spare clothes, or washing down your bike will help your ride go much more smoothly. Supporters can also double up as mechanics, masters of strategy, and motivational speakers! Find a willing volunteer and be VERY nice to them over Christmas ;-) Also, before and during the event, be INCREDIBLY nice to them; being a supporter at a 24hr race is tough; do what you can to make sure they have what they need and plan accordingly. They need to be warm, well feed and happy. They are there to help you and have given up a night of sleep to stand in a frozen dark forest FOR YOU! So you can see where this is going; rider and support are actually a team. There’s erm.. no ‘i’ in solo.

What about bikes? If you have one bike, then use that one! However, two bikes are preferable, especially if you want to keep moving as much as possible. Beg and borrow a spare bike of a friend if you can; remember the second bike only needs to get you around one lap whilst your main bike is being fettled. If you have a mechanical or your bike needs a good scrub down, ‘simply’ hand it to your happy smiling helper to sort. At three am. In the pitch black. And possibly whilst it’s sleeting…. NOW do you see why you need to treat them nicely?

Fortunately, Kielder is mostly hard surfaces, so tyres wise, go for something that rolls well on the rear and perhaps has a bit more bite on the front. Full suss or hardtail? Personally I prefer full suss for most riding and racing; over the long haul you will be sitting down A LOT so anything to add comfort is good in my books.

Having a food and drink strategy is critical. If you stop eating and drinking you will grind to a halt. Save time and stay warm by keeping moving! Grab your food and try to eat as much as you can whilst riding. Practice doing this before the event. Pick your points on the course to feed and stick to it as a mental reminder to keep the calories flowing. You will save LOADS of time by doing this.

And on the subject of keeping moving… I have spoken to loads of people over the years who have asked for advice and said, ‘that doesn’t apply to me, I’m not trying to win’. Lo and behold, after the event, in the cold light of day, they have realised how much time they could have saved and how much further up the field they could have been with less dead time. 24HRS DOESN’T GO ANY FASTER WHEN YOU ARE STANDING STILL! Plus, in winter conditions it definitely doesn’t feel any more comfortable! KEEP MOVING AS MUCH AS YOU CAN! Number one tip!


Did I suggest solo was the toughest gig? Well, pairs 24s (especially in the winter) can be a whole load of ‘fun’ too! Especially if you do it ‘right’. By right I mean the fastest way; alternating laps, one lap each. This is the most efficient way to ride pairs 24hrs. Problem is, the wait before your next lap is long enough to completely cool down, (and in a frozen wood, that can take oh, 30 seconds) but will pass in the blink of a sleep deprived eye . A top tip that I learned from the very experienced Team JMC at the infamous Strathpuffer is stay tepid, don’t get too comfortable. If you do get all warm and snuggly, getting back into the cold will be even less ‘appealing’ and will hit you even harder!

If you do want to do multiple laps each, save it as a ‘treat’; keep it for the middle of the night to get a proper break. Sleep in blocks of 45 minutes. (Use an alarm clock; a one and half hour, 2hr 15min, or 3hrs sleep will work wonders – trust me. It’s a science thing).

If you can enlist a helper or two for pairs, you won’t regret it (Even if they do).

Teams of four

Heh, just kick back, relax and enjoy the spectacle of solo and pairs suffering! You only have to ride for 6 hours! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, lots actually… Be organised. Stick to a plan. Make sure every rider knows when they are due to go out (don’t EVERYONE fall asleep / get drunk!). Write down when the rider leaves on the lap and their ESTIMATED return time based on previous laps. This helps you maximise your rest time. Keep your pit organised; four riders and friends / helpers can produce a lot of clothes / food / bikes and bits. Make life slicker and easier by keeping the gaff tidy. Remember that everyone will be tired and it will get VERY cold so energy levels will dip and even seemingly simple tasks will feel a lot harder at 4am when it’s Baltic. “Can you find me those black gloves”*

(*In a black gazebo, amongst piles of black clothes, in a pitch black frozen forest….).

So there you have it; a brushstroke guide to 24hr racing. I could write books on the subject but as they say, there’s nowt like experience! Needless to say, for all the hardship and difficulty of a 24hr race, whatever size team you do it in, you WILL have loads of fun and an experience like no other! I know few 24hr competitors, at the sharp end or just there for a laugh who, come Wednesday, (or maybe Thursday the following week) don’t ‘pine’ () to be back in that beautiful deep dark woods, rather than be tucked behind their snuggly computer at work. 24hr racing gets you like that ;-)

Oh, and here’s a kit list:

Bikes and spares – as many as you have / can get your hands on! LOTS of brake pads ;-) If it is icy / snowy and you want to keep riding right through you need ice tyres. If you have the choice, run cheaper components, not your new XTR!

Lights – depending on weather conditions, you may need lights in the woods for up to 18 hours! Use your lights wisely; knock the power down on the climbs. Turn them off immediately between laps. A helmet light as well as bar light is the ideal. Oh, and make sure your pit crew has good lighting too!

Clothes – bring pretty much every item of cycling clothing you have! Once clothes get wet they aint drying out! Better to throw some old warm clothes over your mucky riding kit between laps than getting changed every lap (A MASSIVE task in the middle of the night!). Make sure your hands and feet are comfortable as a priority.

Food – enough to feed a small army. You need a lot of calories, simply to stay warm! Besides the usual energy products/ bananas / jelly babies etc. have ‘real’ food to hand. Hot food will work wonders and things like noodles / soup / porridge are all fairly easy to prepare in difficult conditions. You only need a gas burner and a pan.

Good luck and see you there. I’ll be flying solo 

Rich Rothwell


Breamish Behemoth 2016

The 2016 Breamish Behemoth was certainly an event to remember. Picture postcard weather and the happiest group of riders ever assembled all contributed to a fantastic day. It all started the day before when participants rolled up for some free camping and discussed opinions and options for th enext days rides. The Behemoth is as much about the social side of things as it is the riding.

Breamish BehemothSunday morning and after twinkling skies in a picth black night the sun rose steadily while the moon lingered on for a few more hours. A clattering diesel car shook me out of my snooze button routine so I dressed and headed out to greet Mark Stephenson who was as cheerful and positive as ever. A coffee soon woke me from my slumber and it wasn’t too long before riders were coming through the door and signing on. Allison and Yvonne Kemp then took over: sign, take your number and a little safety info sheet and you’re good to go.

Nic GilbertThe registration period is always a busy one for the event team as final preparations take place once all the gear turns up. For example food is often made or bought just prior to the big day and then this along with safety kit, chairs, medics, paperwork etc need to be approtioned. It wouldn’t be long before everyone was ready for the off and the team was set off to be in place for the big ride.

8:15am and safety briefing time. A quick run over the essentials and then the countdown began to the kids setting the riders off. The small issue for a 2 mile climb is what greeted everyone as a gentle warm up. Chris Craig had already set off to check the route and he was now being chased down by fast riders such as Richard Rothwell, Keith Forsyth, Peter Squires, Ryan Shiel and more.

Rothwell bolted off like a missile and said “nice social ride” as he disappeared off on his own. Not even out of breathe, git! A plethora of riders then steamed their way up the first him, legs whirling and heart rates thumping until the body adjusts to it’s new workload. Up and over towards Prendwick before hooking right onto Thives Road after a fast and flowing descent.

Above Prendwick and the first signt of the Cheviots biggest hills lay on the riders right hand side. Cheviot, Hedgehope, Cairn Hill, Bloodybush and more faught for the riders attentions. This grassy crossing was a sign of things to come as it’s this very surface that really saps the legs and drains energy reserves. A bit more cross country and then it was time for checkpoint 1 to start receiving riders. Eileen and George Wilson dished out the food and water to keep you fully fuelled up.

The ride briefing did tell everyone that “it all goes tits up after checkpoint 1″ but the only way to find out is to get stuck in and try it. Sure enough the brutally steep hill up to Singmoor brought about profaneties and curses and yet a lot of the riders managed to clear it in one. It was wishful thinking to consider that hill to be the end of the suffering as the red road gave way to a long grassy traverse high above Puncherton farm. This delightful track consisting of long grass, short gras and mud was just perfect as the riders went point to point following tape and signs.

Mental fortitude suitably tested it was time to descend off The Dodd which has a very long sweeping path then a little climb which eventually transformed into a steep drop that turned vertical before dropping into the valley. Andy Williamson and his kids marshaled here and watched as wide eyed riders swept down, some no longer able to scrub speed and hoping for traction as tyres dug in for grip.

Alwin ValleyThe next section is quite frankly a disgrace and needs reviewed. A LEVEL ride through the valley before a relatively GENTLE 2 mile climb on a HARD forest track. If there is a way to get a hard and steep grassy climb instead then I’ll stick that in. Only joking. This climb up to Clennell Street, the drop into Shillmoor Farm and then the meander up the Usway Burn are a chance for legs to get some semblence of normality. A climb out of Fairhaugh is then greeted by a fast, sweeping track to Barrowburn cafe.

Ah, the safety and sanctity of the Barrowburn cafe. The last big event to roll through before Ian and Eunice leave the valley for good. This place has been a true gem and helps refuel battered riders before taking up arms against the Cheviots once more. Joanne Richardson and Brian Kemp manned the fort and found that apart from the few at the front, the vast majority of riders had good common sense and stopped for something to eat and drink.

By this point it was clear the ride had inflicted a good degree of damage to some riders and around 15 dropped out, adding to the handful already back at base. The Behemoth was biting. A number of cars were despatched to collect riders and some had decided to make their own way back via the roads which was no mean effort.

What follows Barrowburn has got to be as close to physical torture as you can get whilst cycling. The Border County ride is steep and can be ridden but people need to be wary to not blow their tops and leave nothing for later. Clearing this climb you then cross the grassy fields near Barrow Law on the way to Murder Cleugh. That wasn’t so bad. Aha! What follows that is even worse as the toughest climb of the day rears into view with the pinnacle of Windy Gyle sitting high up on the skyline. The final climb is just not on the cards for 90% of normal humans! The real Brucey bonus is that after crawling to the highest point there are only two more climbs of note to be dealing with.

Turn right from Windy Gyle and then hit the solid slabs on the Pennine Way high up on the border ridge between England and Scotland. The views were phenomenal but the riders didn’t get much chance to soak them in as maximum concentration was called for. Drop off a couple of steps here, ride up a few there.. Balance, judgement and bike handling were all put to the test. The final kilometre of slabs were a pathway so a walking section was enforced. I’m sure you all stuck to it.

A fast drop down to Salters Road was now called for. One lad caught a rut and took a fall but managed to recover. The tracks disappeared into Uswayford Forest and tracked through the popular wild camping spot of Davidsons Linn before popping out high above the Breamish valley. This horizontal traverse would have been incredibly welcome but was soon surpassed by the fast grassy hill down into High Bleakhope and checkpoint 3.

Miriam Adcock and Mark Stephenson stood liek troopers out in the middle of absolutely nowhere until the riders started appearing. They would have a super long stint until the sweep reared into view in the late afternoon. It was here that riders could see the last truly big test of the day. If they could make the climb out of Low Bleakhope then they could definitely complete the course. However, this climb viewed from checkpoint 3 looks colossal and a good few riders took the wise choice to hook a left just before it started and head back along the road.

At the top of the Salters climb is where I stuck myself. Having spent the morning feeling physically sick with anxiety it was a great relief to see out-rider Chris Craih hove into view and take my mind of things. I was amazed at how spread out people were as they rode over Little Dod. People steamed down the wide hill to then hook a left and set off across yet another grassy wonder-track towards Alnham.

It was here that Graham Pogson’s accident occured. Travelling relatively slowly with his wife he hit the deck hard with his head. Temporarily unconciou he soon came round but very dazed and confused. After the initial first aid checks the incident was escalated to the emergency services. The event medic Michelle came on the scene after a speed ride from Paul Kemp and then soon both North of Tyne and National Park Mountain Rescue were on hand. Graham was stretchered away to an ambulance waiting at Alnham and on to Cramlington emergency hospital with his wife Andrea. Having visited the next day I am delighted to say he was fine and is making a steady recovery home in Galasheil.

When riders had passed my point they rode cross country to Alnhamoor and were then greeted by a grassy climb up to the corner of Cobden trees. It was here David Wilson and his wife ushered people onwards and reminded them it wasn’t far to go now. Crossing the fields onto a solid track the speeds then upped as people swept into the abandoned house of Chesters. A delightful field packed with long grass followed which led to a deer gate and steeply down to cross a stream. This drop would lead to a few low speed offs as it got quite technical near the middle.

Bracken. Oh how people love a bit of bracken! I’d gone up two days prior and hacked those buggers away with a huge parang so that route could be cleared. Round the corner a quad had been very handy in flattening large sections, leaving only the unpassable parts (for a quad) left with high shrubbery. People battled through this section to eventually, after all the massive toil and effort, find themselves high on Ingram Hill and looking down on Ingram itself. A massive 2 mile descent was a fitting ending to a leg busting day out in the Cheviots!

San KapilThe Behemoth was brutal, let’s not be making any bones about it. Less than 50% of those that started managed to complete the full route. Whether people managed to do it or not was not relevant, more so that everyone enjoyed themselves and pushed themselves as hard as they could. The feedback was superb with everyone being incredibly positive. San Kapil aka The Indian Fire Trail stated in is “one of the best one day mountain bike events in the UK” – you can read the full article here.

I’ve tried to mention the marshals as I’ve gone through. To complete the lot I have to say that Paul Kemp drove the medic around in the silver 4×4 and did a sterlign job. As did Jason Woodhouse and Keith Fawcett who not only were sweepers but managed to clear the route at the same time and thus save me at least 2 days of effort. Without all of the marshals these events simply could not take place and I’d like to thank them all once again.

The night ended drinking cider with riders Peter and Jane Squires who also helped clean the village hall the next day.  It’s little acts like this that make such a difference!  They also happen to be incredibly fast and capable riders :-)

Thanks to all you riders who turned up and made the ride so special. Positive, enthusiastic and a delight to talk to before, during and after the ride. Everyone approached the ride in the spirit it deserves and every single marshal reported back the same. Well done to you all!  The Valley Cottage Cafe had a good day and let’s not forget that it’s events like this that are so vital so rural small businesses such as this.

The date for next year is 24th September 2017 and I have a feeling a lot of you will be thinking “never again!” but give it a few months and that stirring feeling at the back of your mind will be kicking off once again. Can I do it… Should I do it…

See you all next year!


Success To Build Upon?

I read with interest on the recent news stories about how the British Government should use the good work of our recent Olympic cycling success to enhance the everyday cycling infrastructure of the country. To be honest the cycling infrastructure has improved in my lifetime but it’s still pretty poor. In Tyneside and surrounding areas we’ve had investment in developing old waggonways and cycle routes but that’s about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful they are there but then you look at the arguments I can’t help but feel let down.

Let’s take the Olympic angle for a second. Our nation has dominated track cycling for the last three Olympics with a disproportionaly high amount of medals. That could be down to Lottery funding, great coaching etc but whatever the reason it doesn’t translate to everyday riding with only 2% of the nation regularaly riding a bike. Why is the number so small? With the vast majority of the nation living in and around suburban areas with poor riding routes then clearly the options are limited from the off. It’s intersting that places like Sheffield have made a concious effort to improve not only road based routes but a huge amount has been ploughed into off road options such as bike parks and pump tracks to go alongside support for dedicated events.

The recent letter penned to the government looks to increase funding specifically from the transport budget. 5% of the transport budget is the aim which is probably an incredibly optimistic target. However, aim high and all that. Spending per head in the UK lies at £1 per person whereas our cycle friendly European neighbours in Holland spend £28 per head. This in turn leads to a culture of cycling with only 2% of school kids cycling in the UK whereas 50% cycle in Holland. This figure rises even further in other countries such as Vietnam, China etc. but the underlying reasons for doing so then change to socio-economic.

It will be interesting to see if there is any effect of this call to action. The whole “get inspired” campaign following on from the Olympics can’t really translate effectively unless there is a grass roots audience. Our own events such as the Clennell Colossus and Breamish Behemoth are set piece chances for riders who already have a passion for riding. In a way I hope they contribute to feed peoples intrests and opportunities. Only with more people riding and the health benefits that follow will there be an increase in awareness that can lead to calls for infrastructure spending and greater participation. I wait with interest to see if anything changes moving forward.


Kielder 101 2016

It’s September and it’s a big race near an amply sized mass of water. It must be the Kielder 101, a cracking 101km race or 60km challenge set in Kielder Forest in Northern Northumberland. I’d said I’d go and help so here’s my story of the weekend.

Midges are little feckers. I can’t stand them so anything that involves being outside in near still wind conditions was just not going to happen. As it was I arrived on Friday lunchtime to a bit of a breeze and the little blighters stayed away. I could still sense they were watching though. They had clearly read the signs that a couple of hundred mountain bikers were coming and it was their time for a feed.

The organisers Andy Williamson and Byran Singleton were preparing things with Simon of the Forestry Commission in and around the castle. Kit needed to be shuffled about from the campsite to the castle and visa versa. It was great to see a few tents arriving in the campsite with bikes fixed on the back and a few anxious faces to go with it.

Registration opened at 4pm and as we sat down at 2pm things were eerily prepared ready for the action. No last second messing about by Andy and Bryan! It was time for coffee and a rest before the action started. It was also about now that sponsors were turning up and putting up their kit. I was very impressed by the start/finish gantry and have firmly added this to my wish list for High Fell Events.

The first people passed through and signed on and over the course of the evening the marshals and the riders all turned up. A marshals briefing took place to go over a few things and then it was back to chatting to some familiar faces. At the end of the night it was time to sneak into the back of my car with the seats down and get some sleep. Tomorrow would be a long day. Good I frollocks get to sleep!

Morning came and by the time I go up both Chris Craig and Keith Fawcett had set off to pre-ride the route and check all the signage. Keith told me later that he suffered three punctures in the first ten miles and eventually swapped bikes with the mobile mechanic to keep going. Respect to getting up when it’s dark and setting out into the forest when most people were fast asleep.

Last second registrations by riders took place before the safet briefigng at 7:50am. Richie Smith and Richard Rothwell were on the scene and both had the potential to be at the sharp end of things. By this time bikes had started to gather in earnest as the off approached. Nervous chat and strained faces. Some would know what’s coming and others didn’t have that luxury. Nic Gilbert being one such guy who was stepping into the unkown.

My role today was to ride with Russell of the FC and sweep the course, picking up signs, tape and litter as we went. Unfortunately a dead calm befell the wind and those aforementioned little feckers came out to crawl all over the riders as they waited. My own plan was to hang about in the castle until the last second as keeping moving would be the key to survival today!

Alex MacLennan gave a little chat about Kielder and the tourism it brings before handing over to Bryan to go over some final safety points. It was great that he mentioned taking extra care on the wooden boardwalk section as it’s just super slippy. Even just thinking about it was bringin on a bit of a sweat. Soon enough defending champion Tom Wragg and the other elites were off down the road to battle once more. Then set off the bulk of the riders who were doing the 101 and finally to 60k riders.

Time to swing a leg over a bike and join the back. We set off only to be radioed to stop as a rider had set off later. Two miles later there was a mechanical with a rear mech breaking. To be fair the guy went single speed which takes legs of steel and carried on. Nutter.

Russell and I were collecting tape and signs and these were about every fifty to hundred metres which meant an awful lot of stopping. As a consequence we managed to ride all the way to Bloodybush and never actually caught or seen another rider beyond those who pulled out. The Osprey trail was fast and flowy. Lewisburn can be testig on short sharp sections. Lonesome Pine ups the game with some brutal single track climbs before those freshly greased up board walks.

Soon enough we hit the high and exposed heights of Bloodybush and imagined all the riders careering though here before setting off over the border on route to Newcastleton. There’s nowhere to hide high up on the tops and it was from here at Bloodybush that Jason Woodhouse set off to sweep the long route as Russell and I hooked a left and traversed across to rejoin the route at a later point. What followed was an almighty fast downhill back to the primary feed station. Yee-hah!

Our role to pick of signs was over and effectively we could stop if wanted. However, it was time to have some fun so we pressed on to Deadwater in the company of the first riders we’d seen all day. The big climbs out of the feed station were a pain but soon enough we were on some of Russell’s tracks. I say Russell’s tracks because he’s actually the guy who designs and builds a lot of the trails round here. We came tearing down a descent towards the road and he was like lightning, staying on his back wheel was a bit of an effort. So focussed was Russell on his mad speed fix he missed the marshals so I stopped to let them know we’re through before making a vain attempt to catch him back up. I passed plenty of other riders but not that crazy dude!

The road crossing demanded a walk for health and safety but we stopped and chatted to the marshal and a few other riders. A big guy on a twenty kilogram Surly was doing his first off road event and took on the challenge in good humour. Next up was Deadwater Fell red route, a particular favourite of mine and many others I’m sure. An almightly climb with a super juicy single track climb plonked in the middle. Following this you have finely scluptured and alarmingly fast singletrack for entertainment. And trust me to be with the person who builds them and rides them ost days. Oops.

K101 riders were struggling up Deadwater and grinding those wheels away. One more big effort and they would have no huge hills to crack. I stormed to the top and waited for Russell as I knew the tides would eb turning soon enough as gravity took hold. He started by lowering the pressure on his tyres. That was a worrying sign. He then took a run at the entry and boom we were off. Fifty metres in and still with him. Hundred metres in and getting a bit out of shape. One hundred and fifty metres and I nearly end up in a tree as he races off into the distance. What followed was burying myself on the technical switchbacks but could only oh so slowly close the gap but eventually caught him going into the final long down hills.

All that was left was an uphill road section and then onto the Stick Man trail. A few cheeky steps at the end and then bingo the ride was done. The welcoming party at the end was a nice sight and it was time to join the other mud covered riders and have a chat about how the day had went. It’s a sign of a good event to see lots of smiles and people chatting. The food went down well and the local economy benefitted with the cafe geting some decent business.

Award ceremonies took place with categories for single speed, monster cross, fat bike, male/female and various age categories. Tom Wragg managed to defend last years win to retain his spot as the only person to win the K101 in it’s current guise. Hats off to that man.

Whilst riding round the course I tried to think how it compared to the Breamish Behemoth or Clennell Colossus and came to the conclusion that there really is no comparison. Kielder has oodles of hard packed surfaces and custom made bike trails that allow for greater speed and technical challenge. My events are old school mtb with rough trails, grassy climbs and tackling whatever is in the way. Having done the Breamish Behemoth route the week before this 60k Kielder route I can safely say the Behemoth saps the legs way more!

So another year is out of the way and the organisers can pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Not only that but the riders can feel a real sense of achievement for having took on such an epic challenge. Hopefully the FC man at Bloodybush got home after his vehicle had a flat battery – he really was in the middle of nowhere! Time to stick the feet up and recover. Until 2 weeks time at the Behemoth that is!